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A Letter to My 12-Year-Old Son

This past weekend was the finale to a long season of baseball. You remember it, you were there.

Right before you had to leave, you were nervous and irritable, and you expressed this by snapping at me. And I said back to you, "Well, maybe I just won't go to your game then!" Because I have this uncanny ability to sink to the maturity level of a 12-year-old when pressed. Okay, even a 2-year-old, I'll admit. It isn't pretty. And for that I apologize.

When I showed up at the field just as the game was beginning, you smiled wide at me. "I thought you weren't coming, Mom?" you said.

"Eh, I had nothing else to do," I answered.

You smiled at me and I smiled back. Because we both knew the truth. I wouldn't have missed this game for anything. The championship game.

I watched and cheered. I cringed and covered my eyes. I stood and clapped. I paced and fed your siblings obscene amounts of candy to sit quietly. At one point I told them to go into my pocketbook to get change for the snack bar. When I looked back over, your 2-year-old brother was standing on the bleachers, waving tampons around with his hands like he was conducting an orchestra. I like to think your siblings provide some much needed levity to the games.

It was a close game.

When the coach had you warming up to pitch the final innings, your father and I looked at each other with dread. We were worried. Worried that the weight of this championship game was too much for your shoulders. What if you failed? What if the team lost because of you? I wanted to gather you up in protective bubble wrap and run away with you. Which I would totally have done if you weren't bigger, stronger, and heavier than I am.

This is the hardest part about being a parent. The letting go. The standing on the sidelines and being a spectator in your life. Not just on the sports fields either. One day you will have children and you will understand.

I watched you walk out to that mound, my first born, my practice kid. The one with whom I share all the firsts. You are the one who paves the way for your siblings behind you. The one with whom I make all the mistakes.

My heart walked out to the pitcher's mound with you. Did you notice it right there with you? I am not sure that I breathed once while you were on the mound. Every pitch I threw with you. I used my super telepathic skills to will the ball to go where it needed to go. I was proud of you. So very proud of you, my man-child.

I learned something. As you stepped off the mound with a huge grin on your face, your confidence swelled to enormous heights.

I had to hold back the tears. I felt a little silly crying over a baseball game. I don't even like sports. But really it wasn't the game that made me cry. It was watching you standing up there.

The tears were for you, my shy sensitive child. I had wanted to protect you from failure and hurt, but what would have been the cost? You would never have felt that victory.

"Were you nervous?" I asked you once we got into the car.

"Nah," you answered. And we both smiled because we knew the truth.

I am thankful for a coach that was able to have confidence in you and your abilities. I am forever thankful that he believed in you and gave you the gift of confidence in yourself. Though I am totally planning on giving him a hard punch in the arm next time I see him. He should have warned me so I could have had a stiff drink, or three, beforehand.


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